Erica Sunshine Owen wanted to give her mom, Jodie, a special gift for Mother’s Day. She wanted to give her “the gift of reminding her of the great grace of the gospel.” So Erica wrote her a letter. And she kindly sent it to us, to share with all of you: “I thought some of your readers probably struggle with the same things and could possibly be encouraged by our testimony.” (I suggest you have some tissues handy as you read this beautiful letter!) Thank you Erica for this wonderful gift. Happy Mother’s Day to you and your mom.
Thirty-five years ago you were celebrating your first Mother’s Day as a brand new mom - a single mom, just turned nineteen. You had been through a difficult 9 months of loneliness and broken promises. And then you held me. You said that was the first happiness you had experienced in some time and you named me “Sunshine” hoping for brighter days ahead.
As a mom myself now, I discover more each year how difficult an accomplishment that was. Going through labor and delivery alone, having the huge hospital bill to pay off (I don’t think you had insurance), and barely having time to recover physically before going back to work long hours on your feet to support me. And that was just the beginning.
There were your dreams for more education that had to be put on hold. I remember when I was in elementary school and you told me you were going to start taking classes toward a college degree. You even got nice new shoes you could wear to class that weren’t nasty from the factory where you worked. I also remember the sad night our car broke down in the rain and you had to walk in those nice new shoes to get help for us. I sat in the car and cried for you knowing the shoes were ruined and that there would now be car repair bills which would probably put your education on hold even longer.
I was the only kid in my public school class from a single-parent home. It wasn’t commonplace then, and we were looked down on. You didn’t have time to volunteer in the school and get to know the teachers. You told me anything I accomplished would be through hard work and talent since I wouldn’t get any breaks like other kids with moms on the PTA.
You sat alone at school plays and concerts and recitals. I know that was hard for you. I can see why you often sat there with tears in your eyes. I’m sure some of the tears were the tears of a proud parent watching her growing child, but I also know there were tears because you didn’t have anyone with whom to share those times.
We lived in an apartment - a public housing apartment - when my other friends lived in nice houses. But you didn’t baby me to compensate for the lack of things. It was reality, and you helped me deal with it the best you could.
We went through some really hard things too painful to mention here. But for years now, when I look back at everything, I have seen the hand of a gracious God. Even in the hard times, He kept them from being as hard as they could have been. And He gave me to you and you to me which was just what we needed. I needed a single mom who was the toughest, most hard-working and determined woman I’ve ever known. That toughness and determination made your love for me a priority when it would’ve been easy to collapse under all the burdens you were bearing. And I was loved. There was no doubt about that.
But His grace is most evident when, as a thirty-four year old woman, you bowed your knee to Him and called on Him to save you. I remember that, too. And oh how our lives changed! There was hope, peace, purpose, and joy where there hadn’t been. Yes, our God is mighty to save and abundant in mercy! And that theme had been woven through our lives from the beginning though we weren’t aware of it. What a gracious God we have.
So today I want to say, as I’ve told you many times, how thankful I am that God made YOU my mom. I have learned so much from you. I am so proud of what He has allowed you to accomplish. Those public housing apartments we lived in? You’ve been the Executive Director of public assisted housing for years now. That Associates degree you were trying to start when I was in elementary school? You just completed your MBA last month. And the daughter you worried about turning out right because of the “baggage” and “wrong” home life? She’s happily satisfied in God and serving Him, married to a godly pastor, and has been blessed with three precious gifts from above. Grace upon grace.
I know you are a private person and are probably slightly annoyed that I’ve written this for others to read. But our story is the story of many others like us. And it’s one that shouts of God’s pursuit of His children in unlikely places and in unlikely ways. He sought us and never gave up on us. He loved us, and saved us, and forgave us, and we are HIS! “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
Rejoice today, Mom, in sins forgiven and abundant grace that’s yours! Rejoice in the work of our Savior doing for us what we could not do for ourselves! And rejoice that He has used the mess that was our lives and made His grace shine all the brighter BECAUSE OF the mess. Only God can do things like that!
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I’m rejoicing together with you and because of God’s work in you.
With much love,